I wasn’t going to write anything tonight because I found myself too mad about some stuff that I have experienced this week and I didn’t want to vent it all over you guys. After an evening of indignant huffing I realised that this blog is meant for me to share my feelings on, so here goes.
So this week I have had some really eye opening looks at the Kafka-esque nightmare that is the internal workings of a modern Australian hospital. This week I have seen in succession: a patient with serious conditions dismissed from the ED and told not to worry about it, and then when a doctor does decide that in fact they need proper review, and makes the appropriate requests marked ‘URGENT’ the referrals get lost in the system, completely forgotten and at one point the patient’s entire medical record vanishes from the system. On the surface you would think this was just a series of inconveniences but then you realise that this is a patient with a potential ticking time bomb lying inside them and instead of getting the care they need and importantly, the reassurance that everything will be OK, they are forced to spend their time harassing and making a nuisance of themselves to hospital staff just to get anywhere at all. Now sure this one patient may be lucky enough to have the time to go and get the care they deserve, but I am not naive enough to think this is the only patient out there who has fallen between the cracks, and these others may need to be at work or may be actually too sick or simply stressed to now become a professional patient. Not able to spend the office hours of everyday either calling people to remind them they need an appointment or just sitting there stressing and hoping that an appointment is on the way.
I don’t mean to insinuate that the hospital staff are doing anything wrong, this is a problem with the system itself. From the bare technical components that allow records to go missing, to the huge backlogs in patients that mean that we could stop accepting new patients today and the hospital would still have work to do every day for the next 3 years. Believe me, there is not as much hyperbole in that statement as I am comfortable with. The staff of the healthcare system around the country are beyond reproach and work miracles to save and improve lives around the clock and do not receive enough praise for it (still being a student myself, I hope that sentiment doesn’t appear too self serving)
I have lived in a couple other countries and I have seen other ways of running health systems and I will be the first to say that Australia’s is the best imaginable. I have seen the extremes of both public paid only and private insurance only systems and both are just untenable. Every Australian should be proud of the healthcare system we have, or at least the one we have in theory. The real life version that we have now is a shadow of what it could be and it is due to the simple reason that (WARNING: GETTING POLITICAL) morons have been in charge for too long. Both sides of politics are guilty, but the conclusions is unavoidable. It has been a long and slow process but the health system (along with other things) has been methodically starved of the resources that it needs to do the job that people rely on it for. Sure we can argue that in real terms the system is getting more dollars than it did in the 80s, but that fails to take into the account the increased cost of the services the system needs to provide and the number of services that are needed by the community.
So why? Why do they sit there and deprive the brilliant workers of possibly the world’s best health system the basic fuel they need to power the whole machine? A puerile misconception that running a country is like running a household. It may be politically expedient and relatable to say “We shouldn’t spend beyond our means” and then slash every part of the budget that doesn’t blow things up in order to put on a hat that says “Good with Monies: No Budget Deficit” and parade around like a toddler that just got potty trained, but like my experiences this week have shown it is maniacally and dangerously stupid. Yes if you are in charge of a household budget and you go off to pay for 12 pairs of high heel boots on a credit card with 12% p.a. interest then yes, you are the economic equivalent of shitting yourself like a drooling toddler. However if you are a government and you are temporarily spending more on important things like education and healthcare then you have graduated past the diapers, you give it a few years and your newly educated and healthy workforce will help pay down the debt. By all means you can try to wave your arms around in hysterics over budget deficits but good luck get elected by the illiterate corpses that now populate your electorate.
The effects of these decisions are already being felt, I have seen this week what I am sure is just the tip of a very large iceberg and I have only scratched the surface of the problems and decisions that have gotten us to this point, partly because it is not my place to talk about them all here and also because I am very tired at this point. Hopefully there is not too much cost in terms of human life before someone in charge realises the costs of these actions.
Anywho I will leave it there. I don’t imagine this post will magically change the system in anyway or change anyone’s mind but I do hope I didn’t offend anyone overly much (special apologies to the incontinent toddlers that copped some very undeserved comparisons to politicians). If it is any consolation, this has made me feel somewhat better.
Goodbye again and have a good week, I promise the next post will be some more semi-anxious self reflection